The margin was as slender as, say, a last-second field goal, but for the first time all season, Baltimoreans tuned in to another football game in greater numbers than a Ravens contest.
According to Sinclair Broadcasting research director Barry Schiffer, this week's official "Media Watch" ratings provider, Sunday's Cowboys-49ers game, aired at 4 p.m. on Channel 45, pulled in an 11.5 rating with a 21 share of the audience, while the Ravens-Jaguars game did an 11.1/20 on Channel 11 in the same time slot.
In hard numbers, the Dallas game was seen in about 3,900 more homes out of the more than 980,000 dwellings in the Baltimore metropolitan area. Not a large figure, to be sure, but symbolic of hesitancy on the part of local viewers to tune in to Ravens games in great numbers.
On a different subject, Ted Ewanciw, a Home Team Sports spokesman, reports that Washington Bullets ratings on HTS through the first three telecasts are not only more than double what they were at this point last year, but also are a full rating point higher than they are in Washington.
You could call the concurrence of the Boston College imbroglio, where 13 members of the football team were suspended for betting on sporting events, with tonight's Larry Merchant story of a student-run gambling operation at the University of Alabama on the HBO series "Real Sports" (10 p.m.) a matter of perfect timing, but executive producer Ross Greenburg thinks there's something larger afoot.
"None of us are naive enough to believe that students and athletes aren't participating. We have to assume that athletic-minded students on these university teams are betting," Greenburg said. "It was just a matter of time before something concerning student gambling happened."
The "Real Sports" staff combed 30 college campuses and found "very active" student-run betting services. For tonight's report, the show placed hidden cameras and microphones in the room of one Alabama operation, which generates thousands of dollars a year.
The students who run the service agreed to come on camera, albeit under electronic cover, and brazenly bragged about their success.
"Now that we've blown the lid off, every university president is going to have to look into his college campus, as well as district attorneys. You'll see significant crackdowns on this kind of gambling," Greenburg said.
Other pieces on the program include a Frank Deford story, looking behind the scenes at how the Los Angeles Lakers signed Shaquille O'Neal; a Jim Lampley-reported story on the struggles of a 20-year-old Colorado youth with Down syndrome to play high school football; and a report from James Brown on the community ownership of the Green Bay Packers.
For TBS' coverage of the PGA Grand Slam tonight and tomorrow (7: 05 p.m.) from Kauai, Hawaii, famed golf producer Frank Chirkinian will have the luxury of having the participants wearing microphones as they compete, which he hopes "will add the element of entertainment."
The format, however, pitting just the four winners of this year's Grand Slam events -- Nick Faldo (Masters), Steve Jones (U.S. Open), Tom Lehman (British Open) and Mark Brooks (PGA Championship) -- against each other will make the telecast tricky.
"There's no place to run and hide by going to other foursomes. There's one group and one group only. You can't have what I call 'synthetic drama.' We'll have to have a lot of pre-production with talking heads, but it will be interesting," Chirkinian said.
The outspoken 70-year-old pioneer, who recently accepted a reduced role at CBS, was his usual politically incorrect self during a brief teleconference yesterday.
When asked how he would deal with the free time that comes with his new consulting duties for CBS, Chirkinian said: "I'm going to spend between now and '99 [the end of his current contract with the network] drinking a lot and chasing a lot of gals. Hopefully, I'll catch a few."
When told that Faldo had some objections to wearing a mike, mistakenly thinking that the event would air live, Chirkinian quipped, "I'll get a 2-by-4 and deal with him later. I'm still the Ayatollah."
Tomorrow's "NBA at 50" (TNT, 8 p.m., with re-airs at 10 p.m. and midnight), which looks back at the history of the National Basketball Association as it enters its 50th season, is a decided step above the fawning one might expect when a league celebrates such a milestone.
For instance, the two-hour special, for which actor Denzel Washington is host, deals rather frankly with the league's down period in the late 1970s, when the perception of rampant drug use in the NBA had spread far and wide. The program also addresses the slowness of the league to accept black players in the late 1940s.
A free-spirited tribute to playground basketball, narrated by director Spike Lee, as well as an exploration of the rivalry between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson and a look at the legend of Julius Erving make this special a slam-dunk winner.
Pub Date: 11/12/96